March 23, 2020

Dear ABLE BC Members and Industry Colleagues, 

The COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve rapidly and we’re working hard to get answers for you.

Included in today’s email:

  • Update: What are Essential Services? 
  • Update: Federal Government Emergency Funding
  • Update: Liquor Primary access to BDC Loans
  • Update: Liquor Primaries and Food Primaries allowed to sell alcohol with take-away and delivery meals
  • Off-sales endorsement clarification
  • Update from BDL
  • Webinar Tomorrow: Navigating COVID-19 – Employment Information
  • Vancouver Food and Beverage Community Relief Fund 

Please continue to send your questions by email to ABLE BC: or

Find all past updates from ABLE BC here.

Update: What are Essential Services?

We have received many questions from members about essential services and how your business may be impacted if the federal government invokes emergency legislation.

To be clear, at this time the BC government has indicated they have no plans to close liquor stores in British Columbia. We are in touch with government regularly on this issue and have clearly articulated the need to keep private liquor stores open throughout this crisis, even if a federal emergency is declared.

During Prime Minister Trudeau’s address on March 21, he made clear that all options remain on the table, but did not yet feel it necessary to invoke emergency legislation and declare a federal state of emergency. 

Lawyer Shea Coulson (Partner, McMillan LLP) has outlined what emergency legislation does and what is an ‘essential service’ in Canada.

Read his full update here.

Key Points

What is an “essential service” in Canada? 

There is no Canada-wide definition of what is essential during an emergency. In the event of a lock-down, every province and territory will likely develop their own list of essential services that will be permitted to continue operating. The federal government may also develop one for federally regulated businesses and act as a coordinator and facilitator for the provinces and territories.

Is your business essential? 

Early engagement with governments is key if your business needs to be deemed “essential.” During an emergency, the government cannot be relied upon to develop a comprehensive list on their own – input from industry stakeholders is critical.

ABLE BC is already working with our government partners to request that liquor stores be deemed “essential” in the event of a federal emergency is declared.

Will a federal state of emergency be declared? 

By now, every Canadian province has declared a state of emergency. The federal government has not, but we (McMillan LLP) believe that it will do so once the House of Commons returns early this week.

The Emergencies Act requires that the declaration of an emergency pass in the House and the Senate within 7 days of it being issued.

Once declaring a Public Welfare Emergency, Cabinet will have the authority to order such things as:

  • travel restrictions
  • evacuations
  • requisition, use or disposition of property
  • provision of essential services
  • distribution of essential goods, services and resources
  • emergency payments
  • establishment of shelters and hospitals
  • repair, replacement or restoration of damage
  • actions to address environmental damage
  • imposition of fines or imprisonment for violating any such order

Have any provinces closed liquor stores?

The only provinces to close liquor stores are Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador (online services remain available).

Read the full update here.

ABLE BC thanks Shea Coulson and McMillan LLP for their urgent support and information in our industry’s time of crisis.

Update: Federal Government Emergency Funding

During this morning’s address, Prime Minister Trudeau said the House of Commons will reconvene on Tuesday to approve emergency aid measures.

A smaller-than-normal number of MPs will be called back on Tuesday at noon to adopt emergency measures announced earlier this week by the federal government that are intended to offset the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Senate will be called back Wednesday to pass the bill. Royal Assent is expected the same day, Radio-Canada has learned.

Find a summary of the federal government emergency aid measures here

Many of you are wondering how to access federal and provincial programs aimed at supporting you, your workers, and your businesses. As soon as that information is available, we will circulate it to you.

Financial Support for Liquor Primaries: Access to BDC Loans

ABLE BC is aware that the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) has restrictions in place against providing loans to Liquor Primaries. These restrictions are illogical and need to be eliminated immediately.

We have engaged directly with contacts in the Prime Minister’s Office and also written to the minister responsible to request an urgent change in this policy, in order to allow liquor primaries access to BDC’s programs. We will share updates with you as soon as possible.

Thank you to Shea Coulson (McMillan LLP) for his urgent support in this matter.

Update: Liquor Primaries and Food Primaries allowed to sell alcohol with take-away and delivery meals

We shared in yesterday’s update that, effective immediately, liquor primaries and food primaries (operating in compliance with the provincial health order) are allowed to sell alcohol with take-away and delivery meals.

The LCRB policy directive outlining this change is now available.

The Liquor Primary and Food Primary Terms and Conditions Handbooks have also been updated.

What you need to know:

  • Liquor sales are only permitted with purchase of a meal for take-away or delivery
  • You can sell any and all types of packaged liquor; you cannot sell mixed drinks
  • You may sell via online platforms
  • You may only sell to patrons (i.e. you cannot sell to other liquor licensees)
  • No take out or delivery sales of liquor are permitted after 11 p.m.
  • For delivery, the person delivering must have Serving it Right and must ensure the customer is of legal drinking age. As with all liquor sales, it is ultimately the licensees’ responsibility to ensure compliance.
  • The change is effective March 21, 2020 and will remain in place until July 15, 2020.
  • You are not permitted to sell alcohol for take-away or delivery without a meal. Doing so will be a direct contravention of your Terms and Conditions and will lead to serious penalties.

The Attorney General announced these changes officially today, and encouraged operators to hire their out of work servers to deliver liquor products as part of their food-delivery service.

On behalf of our industry, ABLE BC sends a personal thank you to Attorney General David Eby and his staff for getting this change done so quickly. We are immensely appreciative of their ongoing support to our industry in a time of crisis. 

Off-Sales Endorsement Clarification

We have received questions from members if you are still be able to offer off-sales during this time. 

As noted in the Provincial Health Officer’s Order:

If you are the holder of a retail liquor store licence or a manufacturer’s on-site store endorsement, or a liquor primary licence with an off-sales endorsement listed in Table 1, your retail premise may stay open.” 

Please read the order to understand the appropriate conditions.

If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact ABLE BC: or

Update from BDL

On March 21, ABLE BC received the following update from BDL:

We had our busiest delivery day on Friday (March 20) since last July. All product was delivered, including emergency orders and nothing was carried over to Saturday. Next week is shaping up to be significant as well.

We will continue to provide updates from BDL as needed.

Webinar Tomorrow: Navigating COVID-19 – Employment Information

Registration is open for Restaurant Canada’s upcoming webinar Navigating COVID-19: Employment Information taking place on Monday, March 23 from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm EST.

As the Canadian foodservice and hospitality industry navigates these challenging times in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many owners, operators, and employees alike have questions about employment and human resource concerns.

During this webinar, an expert will speak to some of the most pressing issues including: 

  • An overview of new benefits offered by the Government
  • Employer and employee responsibility during this COVID-19 pandemic
  • Ensuring compliance with best HR practices

Register here

Can’t make it, but still interested? Register now and Restaurants Canada will send you the webinar recording afterwards so you can catch up on your own time.

Vancouver Food and Beverage Community Relief Fund 

Members of Vancouver’s food & beverage industry have launched a Community Relief Fund. All money raised will be distributed to food & beverage workers impacted by COVID-19 who require urgent financial relief. 

Those applying for funds will receive access to relief funds ranging from $25 to $150 to use toward basic necessities, such as groceries, covering a bill, going toward rent, or filling prescriptions, etc.

Learn more.

For more information:

Public Health Agency of Canada Website

Updates from the Government of British Columbia

Updates and Resources from ABLE BC

If you have any other questions or concerns, please contact ABLE BC:
604-688-5560 or

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